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6 questions recruiters always ask—and how to answer them

While you can’t anticipate which exact questions you’re going to be asked in a job interview situation, recruiters can actually be pretty predictable and consistent when it comes to their interview content. Recruiters are trying to suss out whether you’ll be a good fit for their openings, so the baseline questions are often very similar. With a little prep, you can be ready for the universe of most common questions.

1. Tell me about yourself.

This is a common icebreaker in just about any “getting to know” you setting, not just interviews. It’s always smart to have your elevator pitch ready to go. Don’t worry about providing a comprehensive autobiography for this question…that is definitely not what the recruiter is after. The question is meant to assess how you present yourself, not necessarily the information you present (though that’s certainly important too).

The best way to approach this one is to have a two-minute or so spiel that summarizes your professional career so far, your biggest accomplishments, and your goals. Be brief; your resume will speak for itself, and you’ll be getting other questions as well. Think of it as your opening statement.

2. Tell me about your current (or most recent) job.

Again, this is ground that will be covered in your resume, so you don’t need to go into every daily detail of your current work life. It’s best to give a quick overview of what you’re doing now–your main areas of responsibility, your biggest accomplishments or achievements in your current role, and even what you like and dislike about the job itself. This isn’t a sounding board for your gripes about your current employer, but you can talk about what works for you overall–and what doesn’t.

3. What’s your biggest achievement?

This is an opening for you to humblebrag about what you do well and what you’ve accomplished. But it also tells the recruiter something about your professional values and how you present yourself. Before you interview, come up with three or four specific accomplishments that you can point to as examples. Before your meeting with the recruiter, review the job description (if one is available) to decide which of your accomplishments can be tailored to that specific company.

4. What’s your biggest weakness?

One of the recruiter’s challenges is finding people who will fit in well with job openings they’re working to fill, or for potential future openings. They’re sensitive to company cultures and values, and when they talk to you they want to know that you’re able to present well. So when you’re asked about weaknesses or failures in your past, it’s not about getting you to admit to something. It’s about seeing how you’ve tackled challenges in your career, how you’ve gotten past them, and what you’ve learned. Recruiters also have very strong BS detectors, so if you answer “what’s your biggest weakness?” with “I work too hard” or “I love my job too much,” you’re likely to get an eye roll (even if they don’t let you see it).

The key here is to identify what you’re continuing to work
on in your career. We all have those spots where there’s room for improvement.
So this could be something like, “I tend to take on too much by myself, so I’m
continually looking for ways to help create space for my team members to work
together on projects.” The important thing is focusing on what you know is an
ongoing challenge for you, and what you’re doing to work on it.

5. What is your next step?

This is a question that isn’t necessarily about specific opportunities or job openings, but rather to find out what you might be looking for. It’s a chance to let the recruiter know your immediate (and future) career goals so that they can help you find a good fit, wherever that may be.

6. Are you working with other recruiters?

This is a question of self-interest for any recruiter, but it also tells them a lot about what kind of job searcher you are. If you are actively working with any other recruiters, you don’t have to hide that fact. But if you’re working with a lot of recruiters and have been for a long time, it tells the recruiter that you might be a constant candidate, which can be problematic. It’s better to be honest here, but before you even get to that point consider working with fewer recruiters of better quality.

The key to answering any question from a recruiter is preparing. Always have specific points about yourself and your career, and don’t forget to rehearse them! The recruiter interview is all about how you present yourself, so you want to make sure it’s as smooth and knowledgeable as possible.

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